Off-Piste skiing and snowboarding is our favourite thing. It’s that feeling of freedom, unbridled and uncensored pleasure on the mind body and soul.
It’s difficult to try and explain to someone who’s never experienced off-piste skiing or snowboarding, what it’s like to freeride. That’s why we thought we it was high time we put together the top 25 secret destinations for skiing off piste in Europe. This will make your adventure planning so much easier.
Off-Piste skiing and snowboarding is our favourite thing. It’s that feeling of freedom, unbridled and uncensored pleasure on the mind body and soul. We got quite deep and meaningful there didn’t we?
Look, don’t laugh, we just get a little emotional when we talk about powder skiing, Especially at the prospect of not having to compete for first tracks, in resorts that place skiing at the forefront of their ethos; that’s why we thought we would share some knowledge, as that’s what it’s all about right? Share secrets, explore, discover and enjoy.
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We wanted to make this article a wonderful resource of knowledge and info, so sit down and relax with a hot drink and read from start to finish or simply navigate to the country/resort you wish to head too. Easy Peasy.
La Mongie also known as Grand Tourmalet Bareges is a unique skiing haven located in the Pyrenees and boasts the largest ski area in the region. But more to the point this ski resort has specially dedicated off-piste called the Nouvelle Glisse. This is a supervised off piste area that is on the three sides of Pic du Midi; Bareges, Artigues- Campen and Taoluet. Any off- piste thrill seeker can have their pick of undisturbed fresh powder runs in this lesser known resort away from the Alps. “La Mongie is the paradise of freeriding”, so get your tracks in before the secret is out!
Everyone who is anyone has probably skied in the Three Valleys in the French Alps, but what they haven’t all done is venture over from Val Thorens to the the secret ‘fourth valley’. Orelle has the all highlights of the Three Valleys with the snow sure altitude of 2300m and therefore the luxury of a long season from December to late May and of course collectively being the largest ski area in the world, but one thing Orelle doesn’t have is the crowds of families and piste skiers. Instead, enjoy the dedicated freeride area of the Maurienne valley alongside other (but not very many) like minded extreme skiers.
“St Foy has created a unique cosmos, offering an unprecedented mountain experience in which you can enjoy pure sensations in a mind-blowing adventure playground…”. This ‘playground’ is located in the Tarentaise valley but is lesser known because of its limited on- piste skiing. But if you know, you know that St Foy was once the home to the Free Ride World Tour Qualifiers and an epic location to develop your skills on marked un-groomed black runs to ready you for the endless unmarked backcountry. It has 3 ‘freezones’ which are easy to access so you can begin your epic days riding off-piste early.
Nestled into the Savoie Valley in the Vanoise National Park, Pralognan-la-Vanoise is a destination to discover! With it being in a national park, the ski resort is well protected and preserved, so you will find it unique to many other French resorts. On your skis off-piste you will be one with nature as you wind through forests, spot waterfalls and maybe bump into a few alpine animals on the way. Or alternatively get high up onto the glacier at Pointe de la Grande Casse at a whopping 3855m and descend off-piste for nearly 2500m, working up an appetite which will be well looked after down in the picture postcard village.
La Grave calls itself the ‘free- ride village’ and it is easy to see why. They have a singular marked piste on the glacier but the rest an unmarked and unpatrolled “real mountain experience”. Take the cable car in 30 minutes up to 3200m and go play! This ski resort encourages you to explore the untouched mountain and to create your own action packed backcountry skiing itinerary in the wild. Of course this comes with caution as it is not like any other resorts you may know- “this freedom requires a certain technical level, but more importantly humility, responsibility, and respect for mother nature.” If you are an experienced freerider and backcountry junkie you are in good hands!
La Grand- Bornand is located in the Aravis mountain range in the Haute- Savoie. The piste map would show a ski resort ideal for families and piste skiers, however what the map doesn’t do justice is the extensive back-country terrain available. If you fancy a challenge away from the pistes you will have easy access to the free- ride area of Mont Lachat de Chatillon and go off-grid at the far end Maroly Valley. For those who are wanting wanting to advance their skiing or boarding and break into the world of free- ride La Grand- Bornand is a great start!
In amongst the Italian South Tyrolean Dolomites is the quaint area of Alta Badia. By visiting this location you are already ahead by escaping the crowds but make sure you take a 7 day trip and explore the 7 off-piste routes. Start at the easily accessible and relaxed Prati de Camera and end your week carving down the steep and narrow walls of the Valscura couloir which requires a steep ascent and an abseil. Alta Badia is an unexpectedly advanced free ride destination, if your’e up to the challenge then you know where to book!
Arabba boasts to be in the heart of the 1000km Dolomiti Superski in the Italian Dolomites- This alone makes Arabba a sought after destination for a busy winter break. The ski resort is one of the highest in Italy and mostly north facing runs means exceptional snow quality most of the season, which is a great excuse to start your backcountry career. The off-piste is easily accessible from the slopes and lifts and doesn’t require hiking, so when visiting Arabba make the most of the well maintained powder and which you won’t get so readily available in other resorts.
The Italian ski hamlet of Alagna sits in the Monterosa Ski area in the Aosta Valley. It has an indisputable reputation amongst the experienced skiers and boarders of the world- “Alagna is the off-piste paradise of the Monte Rosa”. Starting at 3000m on glacier Indren you will have access to an overwhelming array of patrolled off-piste routes to match your ability. Glide and carve through notoriously fluffy powder using the Andrea Gallo’s Pink Powder guide for safe but exciting route information and experience this “free-ride paradise” for yourself.
“Freeride is synonymous for freedom”- So head to Pila to experience this unparalleled feeling of freedom for yourself. Pila is the small, easily accessible resort just above the city of Aosta, but do not judge this resort by its size, it does big things! Begin your epic day at Couis 1 lift station and explore the descent of Platta de Grevon at 2700m dedicated to free-ride. This ungroomed piste will challenge and excite you with every turn. Further down by the trees you can carve your way through the forest too, this is where the real fun is! Due to the beauty of immaculately pisted slopes of Pila, you will probably find you will be one of the few seeking such difficult terrain, so it will be a true untouched adventure every time.
Andermatt in the Swiss Alps is a chocolate box village with limited slopes but don’t be fooled by first impressions. The Gemstockk mountain at 3000m can be accessed by cable car and from there you can descend down in some serious free ride action. The terrain is so varied that you will struggle to have time to do the same route twice. Some of the routes are well known for their short but steep 500m descents which will be sure to get your heart racing! Many of the areas are patrolled and guides are readily available for a safe but adrenaline fuelled off-piste trip.
Morgins in the Swiss part of the Port du Soleil is an epic ski destination and the Free Ride World Tour qualifiers agrees! Morgins has a large powder reserve which means you can enjoy the fluff here more often than in other ski resorts and there is nothing better than season long pow pow! Due to the ski resorts interesting location at the foot of Dents du Midi, it boasts an incredible view of lakes and forests down below which creates an unforgettable back-country experience and hopefully distract you from the inevitable ascent with your skins- so don’t forget your camera!
Silvaplana (1815m) with its ski resort Corvatsch (up to 3303m) is located in the Engadine, Switzerland. Engadine is a famous valley in the Southern Alps with a long skiing tradition and St.Moritz as its main town”. You will find an array of terrain to sink your thrill seeking teeth into, with cliff jumps, steep couloirs and wide powder fields with a special thanks to the high altitude an north facing location.
Think of Bruson like Verbier’s younger and dare we say, cuter sister, nestled in the forest on the other side of the hill from Verbier, beat the crowds and have a different experience, as the riders head for the open faces of Le Mon Fort, have access to first tracks in Bruson instead. A faveorite with local freeriders and tourists alike. Better for those with a car as the night-life is, well, lacking but if you are staying in chalet with friends, its as cosy as it can get!
As part of the 4 valleys in Switzerland, Nendaz would often be shadowed by Verbier. It is however, increasingly becoming more popular with experienced free riders due to the more challenging and interesting back country terrain. Nendaz is quite a spectacle with large imposing mountains which has created an interesting experience for free riders, facing with the big, open and exposed nature of the mountain ranges. Be sure to give this cheaper and less busy a tick off your bucket list.
Warth Schroecken in Austria has been coined the “snowiest ski resort in the alps” and a “freeride Eldorado on the Arberg”. This is said to be because of is northern facing slopes which are always helpful for long remaining pow! It is also the starting point of the Arberg freeride safari, going on to Lech Zurs and St. Anton and it is also the home the Alberg Northface 3. For any free rider this is one epic adventure to tick off your list.
Hockoenig in the Aberg region in the Austrian alps is like most resorts in Austria which are full of life, tradition and merriment, but Hockoenig stand out for its difficult terrain and its draw for advanced skiers and boarders. Most of the available free ride run are through the trees and forests as part of the Maria Alm. You really get the feel of being out in the wilderness whilst making fresh tracks through the snow capped trees and long descents. As a free rider it is a welcomed change to the usual sheer faces and exposed mountain ranges.
Gastein is really looking after us freeriders and thrill seekers, encouraging riders to go and explore their terrain safely with guides and daily updates available and the base lift station; and for that Gastein, we salute you! From Sportgastein you can access backcountry from 2700m, and explore the famously wide and open faces. The mountain around the Gastein valley are a sight for sore eyes with their incredibly high and imposing peaks. Take your camera (obviously) and maybe a car if you can as the mountains regions are disconnected and not always easily accessible between them.
Serfaus in the Austrian Alps follows the motto “feel free” and their freeride routes reflect this. With access to 10 different freeride routes you will be sure to feel very free indeed! If you want to be challenged, freeriders know where to flock with routes such as the tongue twister and also thigh killer ‘Schleifplattenroute’, this freeride route is at points a 78% gradient. Or alternatively take the scenic route through a pine forest. It seems whichever of the 10 routes you pack into your off-piste itinerary you are guaranteed to never have a dull moment.
Many dedicated freeriders have ventured their way round the prime spots in the Alps and are maybe looking for somewhere a little different. The lesser known mountains of the Pyrenees in Spain are another great freeride hotspot, without any reduction in the quality of the snow and the freeride. The region of Baqueira is a popular spot because of its Aneto Peak which is the highest mountain in the Spanish Peninsula; a spectacular scenery to rival the Alps. Have fun exploring the well kept secrets of the Val d’Aran, and make your own history in the region.
When you think of skiing in Germany you think of small local resorts with limited snow depth and skiing action but the resort of Hochfelln in Bergen will surely change any preconceptions. The Freeride World Tour was one step ahead after founding one its its 1* competition destinations. Once you get there, be sure to ask the locals for insiders tips, because who is better to know where the best backcountry is than those who have skied those mountains their whole lives.
Jasna is in Slovakia and said to be “one of the top freeride spots in Central Europe”. The two mountain ranges of the resort have now been connected which has opened up a whole new realm of freeride possibilities. The north side is steeper and more challenging terrain so attracts an advanced and experienced freerider, whilst the South side is wide open powder fields that spark the interest of those who are wanting to develop their off-piste skills. Jasna has been on the scene for the Freeride World Tour Qualifiers and is the venue for the CGC Jasna Adrenalin FWQ international competition.
The Norwegians have always been known to swan on into the European resorts and totally rock any freeride and backcountry spots, putting many of us to shame. With resorts such as Roldal on their doorstep as a freeride haven to play on, it is no wonder they are not phased by the Alps. It is almost untouched territory for tourists therefore it is only ever considered ‘busy’ on the weekends when the locals flock. Unlike in the Alps as a tourist, you could be laying the first tracks without even trying, especially considering 99% of this ski resort is off-piste. If you can hack the basic and old school life of a locals ski resorts you will be more than rewarded in having practically the whole mountain to yourself- bliss!
Iceland is famous for its arctic conditions, the capital Reykjavik and the Northern lights but surprisingly the skiing and freeride is not why people primarily flock to this interesting country. As a freerider it is always important to be one ahead of the game to avoid the crowds and tracked up routes, so give Iceland’s Skardslur a try and be mesmerised by the unique terrain and culture.
If you know skiing in Norway then you have probably heard of Trysil which is the country’s largest resort. What may be less known is that Trysil can also boast that it remains to be surrounded by unspoilt nature and achieved its sustainable tourism certification. For a freerider and backcountry skiing lover this invites you to make the most of this unspoilt haven in a environmentally sustainable manner. Although the Scandinavian countries such as Norway have arctic climates in the winter months, despite of this they know how to enjoy and care for the natural beauty the great outdoors.
Riksgransen in Sweden allows you to experience the unique way of life of those who live in the Arctic Circle. The season is an unusually late start of February but doesn’t end until June, and from May onward the lifts operate with the midnight sun. The amount of snow in Riksgransen has been so monumental in the recent years that residents have had to move out, however this has then encouraged those seeking endless amounts of snow and thrill. Those in the know will head to Uffes Vag and Rimfors for their vastly unpisted slopes. To quote their website it says there are 29 pistes, 6 lifts and “a lot” of off-piste; simple but effective, SOLD!
What an adventure it was to read and research these places, let alone visit. We are stoked to plan some amazing trips to these secret destinations and we certainly hope you are too. Be sure to click the links to get to know the areas a little better and don’t be shy about sending us your images and messages about your own adventures.
Perhaps you have a favourite ski spot that we missed? Let us know!